By Bonnie Fishman / San Francisco Bay Area
"If you find yourself having to tiptoe around others, you’re not walking amongst your tribe"
Where are you most comfortable? In your own home, snuggled in your pj’s on your couch or in bed? Is it standing in the kitchen cooking up a storm for company? Or is it lying on a pristine beach under a palapa sipping a cold drink? Maybe it’s reading a book under a tree on a spring day.
I’ve been giving this some thought. Me? Put me in my big easy chair on my porch, or in the kitchen, or swimming laps on a beautiful day. But I’m talking about something quite different than doing something or being somewhere.
This past week, I had the opportunity to have a reunion with close, dear friends from childhood. We all flew into Phoenix on a Sunday afternoon. Our host, Debbi, an architect, invited me from San Francisco, as well as Renee, an OB-GYN from Detroit, Suzi, a psychotherapist and college career counselor from New York and Susan, an executive global convention planner from Chicago. We hadn’t all been together for 11 years, since we had met in Saugatuck, Mich.
After an exchange of hugs as each woman arrived from the airport and we settled into some drinks and snacks poolside before dinner, the real fun and “comfort” began. We spoke excitedly as we shared stories about our lives, our families, our health, and how we had survived the pandemic.
Two things immediately dawned on each of us. One, it was as if no time had passed in 11 years. Two, we were unbelievably comfortable with each other.
Suzi and I have been friends for 64 years. We met Debbi a year later in second grade! In our early teens, we met Renee and Susan. Renee, Suzi, Susan, and I were on the same cheerleading squad in high school. It was a real bonding experience as sports teams usually are. Four of us went on to attend the same college. Three of us lived near our hometown at the beginning of our careers and early family life.
The distance hasn’t mattered. We are there for each other during happy times and the bumps in the road. It is a wonderful feeling being supported by close friends.
For me, the most profound discovery at this point in time is that I’m finally being my true self. Living in a semi-rural area away from hectic city life in a bucolic setting suits me fine. The other ladies all live in large metropolitan areas. I am the token “California hippie”: gray hair, no makeup and I actually wear Crocs. Nothing makes me happier.
Since moving to the Bay Area, I have made new friends. What I will never have with these folks is history. We five women came from the same roots, growing up in a simple middle-class neighborhood where everyone seemed equal. Our homes were modest, our lives were modest. There were no pretenses and we were free-wheeling kids, biking all over, hanging out at the park, going out for burgers and fries after a basketball game.
Coming back to the comfort zone was a boost to my soul. I was with my peeps. We all felt the same way. So much connectivity and love. Genuine. I posed the question to the group “What is most special about our reunion?” Almost in unison the response was “I can be myself.” No acting, no guardedness, no filters. I found this most liberating. We vowed to meet again next year instead of waiting 11 years.
The next question I asked was, “What is your quintessential comfort food? We vacillated between hot bread from the oven, pasta, and soup. We did have a consensus with warm chocolate chip cookies and milk. Cookies and milk were a “thing” back in the day when they were served as a summer camp’s 4:00 pm snack or when friends walked home from school with you. Everyone hoped for cookies on the kitchen table.
To give a nod to my comfort zone, I’m offering a chocolate chip cookie recipe today. You can vary it by changing the nuts or removing them, adding dried fruit, or altering the size. Important tips about making these: make the dough at least 1 day ahead and scoop it into cookies while the dough is still cold. Also, don’t flatten them too much before baking. Use parchment paper to line your cookie sheets. And for goodness sake, don’t over bake them if you want a gooey, chewy result!
Tell us here at The Insider what your comfort zone is and what you want to eat when you get there!
Chocolate Chip Cookies with Pecans
Yield: : 2 dozen large cookies or 4 dozen small
4 oz. butter, room temperature
4 oz. margarine, room temperature
1 c. sugar
1/2 c. brown sugar
2 lg. eggs, room temperature
2 1/2 c. flour
1 tsp. soda
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. powder
1 tsp. vanilla
12 oz. chocolate chips or chunks
1 1/2 c. pecan pieces
Beat together the butter, margarine, and sugars until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, scraping down between each addition.
Combine the dry ingredients in a bowl. Blend into the sugar mixture. Add vanilla. Fold in the chocolate and nuts.
Divide dough into 2 patties. Wrap each in plastic wrap. Refrigerate overnight or longer.
Preheat oven to 350°. Line 3-4 baking sheets with parchment paper; reserve.
Take one dough patty out of the fridge. Scoop into 1 dozen balls (use a 1/4 c. measure). Roll each ball quickly and place on the prepared baking sheets, allowing about 2” between each cookie. Press down the dough very slightly.
Bake for @ 18 minutes. Cool on sheets. Repeat with remaining dough.
Note: You can cut each dough ball in half to make smaller cookies, yielding 4 dozen. Bake only 15 minutes.
Bonnie Fishman attended the Cordon Bleu Cookery School in London. Later, she owned and operated Bonnie’s Patisserie in Southfield, Mich. and Bonnie’s Kitchen and Catering in Bloomfield Hills, Mich. She has taught cooking for over 35 years and created hundreds of recipes. She is now living in Northern California.